Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan
Author: Remment Koolhaas Monacelli/010 Press, 1994; Oxford University Press, 1978
Manhattan is the arena of the terminal stage of Western Civilization: Through the simultaneous explosion of human density and an invasion of new technologies, Manhattan became, from 1850, a mythical laboratory for the invention and testing of a revolutionary lifestyle: the Culture of Congestion. Delirious New York is a polemical investigation of that Manhattan; it documents the symbiotic relationship between its mutant metropolitan culture and the unique architecture to which it gave rise. Though this book argues that it often appears that the architecture generated the culture.
Delirious New York exposes the consistency and coherence of the seemingly unrelated episodes of Manhattan's urbanism; it is an interpretation that establishes Manhattan as the product of an unformulated movement, Manhattanism, whose true program was so outrageous that in order for it to be realized it could never be openly declared.
Delirious New York is a retroactive manifesto of Manhattan's architectural enterprise: it untangles the theories, tactics and dissimulations that allowed New York's architects to establish the desires of Manhattan's collective unconscious in the Grid.
Delirious New York proves above all, that Manhattan has been, from the beginning, devoted to the most rational, efficient and utilitarian pursuit of the irrational. In this vision Coney Island becomes an embryonic Manhattan, testbed of a Technology of the Fantastic, the Skyscraper a self contained universe, Manhattan a man-made archipelago of architectural islands, Rockefeller Center, the first and last fragment of a definitive Manhattan. The decline of this movement sets in with the European Modernist Blitzkrieg unleashed by Le Corbusier in the mid-thirties.
An appendix presents a series of projects that announce the second coming of Manhattanism, this time as an explicit doctrine that can claim its place among contemporary urbanisms.
An impressive documentation of original materials and unpublished projects provides the evidence for this architectural manifesto, which reads in its insistent tracing of subconscious clues and themes, like a psychological thriller.